Showing posts with label Iditarod. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iditarod. Show all posts

Iditarod 2017: The Race Resumes in Fairbanks Today

Over the weekend, the 2017 Iditarod got underway in Anchorage Alaska, with 74 mushers setting off following the ceremonial start. But, as I reported last week, the regular restart point at the Campbell Airstrip isn't suitable for use this year because of a lack of snow. So instead, the the sled drivers ant their dogs had to be relocated to Fairbanks, where they'll restart the race today.

This is the third time in Iditarod history that the restart point has been moved to Fairbanks, and once again it is due to poor snow conditions on the trail. While Alaska as a whole has seen plenty of snow this year, the area around Anchorage hasn't been getting the necessary dumps of fresh powder to allow the sleds to run efficiently. Up north in Fairbanks, things are much better however and when the race gets back underway today, the dogs will have plenty of snow to play in.

Since Saturday's start was just a ceremonial send-off, there are no rankings yet. As of this posting, it is still about two hours until the race officially gets going, but don't look for the true contenders to start to emerge for a few days. The race to Nome will cover 980 miles (1577 km), and it is as much a test of endurance as it is speed. For now, the veterans will be mostly content to lurk in the middle of the pack, waiting for the right time to truly get going. By Friday of this week we should have a better idea of where things stand, and who will be the teams to watch heading into the Yukon.

You can follow the entire race on the Iditarod website, which posts all kinds of updates on the standings. Keep in mind when you look at those rankings however that they tend to be a bit skewed  until everyone has taken their mandatory 8 hour and 24 hours breaks. Still, if you know what to look for, it is easy to see who is running well and has a good strategy.

"The Last Great Race" should be interesting to follow once again this year.

Video: The Last Great Race - A Lieutenant Colonel's Iditarod Tale

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Roger "Snowdog" Lee has been training for the 2017 Iditarod for the past three years. Tomorrow, he'll take to the starting line in Anchorage to being "The Last Great Race." His life-long dream will come true, but the real challenge is still ahead. Find out more about Lee and his Iditarod ambitions in this great video, which gives us an idea of what the mushers go through in preparing for the race and endure while out on the trail. Just 1000 miles to Nome!

The 2017 Iditarod Begins Tomorrow

One of my favorite events of the year gets underway tomorrow in Anchorage, Alaska. That's where the ceremonial start of this year's Iditarod sled dog race will get underway. This year there will be 73 mushers heading to the starting line with the intent of racing nearly 1000 miles (1609 km) to the finish line in Nome. The race is a test of determination and endurance not only for the men and women who enter, but their teams of sled dogs as well, with the route passing through remote sections of Alaska wilderness where conditions in March are often harsh.

For the third time in the race's history the course has been altered. A lack of snow in the Anchorage area this year has left the trail in a sorry state heading into the start of the race, which was the case back in 2003 and 2015 as well. So, after the teams have their ceremonial start tomorrow, they'll travel 350 miles (563 km) to the restart point in Fairbanks, where conditions are already predicted to be extremely cold, hovering around 0ºF/-17ºC on Monday when the race will resume. Usually the race restarts in Willow instead.

Fortunately, the rest of Alaska hasn't been without its fair share of snowfall. Moving north to Fairbanks will give the racers, and their dogs, a much better trail to run on. And, conditions have been colder this winter too, which bodes well for the race too. In recent years, warmer temperatures have often left the trail soft and wet, which is harder for the sleds to run on. That will likely make the 980 mile (1577 km) dash to Nome a bit easier and faster.

Normally when writing a post about the start of the Iditarod I would run through a list of mushers who are the leading contenders heading into the event. But, let's face it. After winning the race four of the last five years (only losing to his dad), Dallas Seavey is the clear favorite once again. At the age of 29, he's poised to rewrite all of the records in this race. His father Mitch will probably be amongst the leaders as well, and look for racers like Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle, and Hugh Neff to be in the mix too.

As usual, it will take a few days into the race to see who is running well and to watch the strategies play out. There will probably be a few surprises at the top of the leaderboard as things first unfold. But, by the midway point it will be obvious who the contenders will be. Once racers get through their mandatory 24 and 8 hour rest periods and start to turn for Nome. But at this point, that is a long way off, so for now, we'll just have to watch the ceremonial start and let things play out. It should be an interesting race once again.

Video: Official Trailer for "Crisp" - A Film About the Iditarod Trail Invitational

The Iditarod Trail Invitational is an epic test of endurance. For those not familiar with the event, it is a 1000-mile long bike race through the wilds of Alaska that takes place each March at the same time as the Iditarod sled dog race. This video is a preview for a new film called Crisp that follows riders Ausilia Vistarini and Sebastian Favaro as they compete in this unique, one of a kind, and incredibly demanding event.

Crisp - Official Trailer from Explore MediaLab on Vimeo.

Video: Mushing Explained - What Makes Dogs and Mushers Great Partners?

We continue our "Mushing Explained" series from Alaska Public Media today with another video, this time explaining the bond that forms between the sled dogs and their mushers, and how that makes them work together as a team. In order to compete in an event like the Iditarod, the musher and dogs have to be on the same page, or neither will be happy, nor be able to complete the grueling 1000 mile (1600 km) trail. This is something Brent Sass learned the hard way in this year's race, when his dogs refused to run for him after he pushed them too hard over the course of the event. For the mushers, these dogs are like family, and they treat them as such. Seeing the bond between them is amazing, and you'll get a glimpse of that here.

Video: Mushing Explained - Training for the Trail

Dallas Seavey may have locked up his fourth win of the Iditarod a few days back, but the race still continues in Alaska, where teams are continuing to cross the finish line in Nome. Meanwhile, the Alaska Public Media is also continuing to produce videos in their "Mushing Explained" series, this time sharing inside information on how both the musher and his or her dogs prepare for the grueling Iditarod race. This short video below tells us how they prepare for the rigors of the Alaskan wilderness.

Video: Mushing Explained - Gearing Up for the Trail

Ever wondered what gear the mushers of the Iditarod carry with them during the race? Then you'll definitely want to watch the latest "Mushing Explained" video from Alaska Public Media. It gives us a glimpse at what some of the top competitors in the race take with them, fully knowing they will be out on the trail for 10+ days in most cases. Check it out below.

2016 Iditarod: Dallas Seavey Wins in Record Time!

The winner of the 2016 Iditarod was crowned earlier this morning when 29-year old Dallas Seavey crossed the finish line at 2:20 AM local time. For Seavey, it was his third win in a row, and fourth overall, putting him in great company with a few elite mushers who have managed to win "the Last Great Race" that many times. He also managed to reach Nome in record time.

Dallas managed to finish 45 minutes ahead of his father – Mitch – who came into Nome at 3:05 local time as well. The duo are the only two mushers to have completed the race thus far. At this point, it looks like Brent Sass will likely take third place, as he held a more than a four hour lead over Aliy Zirkle in the battle for third place.

The Seavey family now hold six titles when you include Mitch's two wins. Mushing clearly runs in the family, as Dallas' grandfather Dan was one of the competitors in the first Iditarod, which took place back in 1973.

This time out, Dallas used a bit of different strategy. He allowed his dogs to rest more in the early days of the race, holding them back some to conserve energy for the stretch run. He took his mandatory 24-hour rest in Cripple, where a number of other teams did the same. But after that, he was off and running, and soon was in a familiar place at the top of the leaderboard with only his dad and Sass offering much competition. By the time he reached the coast, it became apparent that it was going to take a monumental effort to try to catch him. In the end, Dallas covered the 975 mile (1569 km) course – running from Anchorage to Nome – in just 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes. That breaks his own record set back in 2014.

In winning this year's race, Dallas joins the elite company of seven racers who have four or more wins. That list includes Susan Butcher, Martin Buser, Lance Mackey, Doug Swingley, and Jeff King with four wins each, and Rick Swenson who stands alone with five victories.

Congratulations to Dallas on another impressive win, and good luck to the remaining competitors out on the course. Most will still take a number of days to reach the finish, with a lot of racing yet to come.

Iditarod 2016: Father and Son Battle for the Lead on the Trail

This past weekend was an eventful one in Alaska, where the 2016 Iditarod continues to unfold. We're now more than a week into the race, and the lead mushers have turned towards Nome. But as the final stages unfold, this year's race is shaping up to be another epic competition between father and son.

At the moment, 29-year old Dallas Seavey leads the race as he looks to join some very elite company with 4 career wins. Dallas is out of the checkpoint at Elim, where he is being chased by Brent Sass – who is currently running in second place – and father Mithc Seavey who is in third. Those three men are the only ones who have departed from Elim right now, which means they are now less than 125 miles (201 km) from the finish line, with the winner potentially being declared tomorrow. The rest of the time five include Aliy Zirkle running in 4th and Wade Marrs in 5th.

The 2016 edition of "The Last Great Race" looks like it could be a close one. The two Seaveys and Sass left Elim just 31 minutes separating all three of them. Looking at the leaderboard, Sass is moving the fastest out on the trail, which means he could pass Dallas on the way to White Mountain, which sits just 77 miles (123 km) from the end point in Nome. What happens between now and then will be interesting to watch unfold. Particularly since all of the top mushers have now taken their 8 and 24-hour mandatory rest periods, so strategy will play a huge role in determining the winner.

Meanwhile, the weekend was eventful in other ways, with not all of them good. On Saturday, a man named Arnold Demoski caused quite a scene when he drove his snowmobile into two dogsled teams at speeds over 100 mph (160 km/h). Demoski first attacked Aliy Zirkle, injuring one of her dogs before riding off. Later, he rammed his snowmobile into Jeff King's team as well, injuring two more dogs, and killing a third. He was later arrested, and is now being held under house arrest. His defense? He say that he got black-out drunk on Friday night, and was operating his snowmobile while under the influence. Demoski says he doesn't even remember doing the things he is accused of.

If you know anything about these mushers, you know that they care about their dogs greatly. Getting unexpectedly attacked while out on the trail must have been a tremendous shock, and losing one of their dogs comes with great sadness. Both Zirkle and King have continued in the race however, as they look to finish the event they started.

I'll be keeping a close eye on the race as everything unfolds over the next couple of days. The winner should reach Nome sometime tomorrow or Wednesday at the very latest.

Iditarod 2016: Race Leaders Take Mandatory 24-Hour Break

As we head into the weekend, the 2016 Iditarod sled dog race is starting to heat up. The top mushers are now more than 425 miles into the race, with most of those at the top of the leaderboard having taken their mandatory 24-hour break. As expected, the top contenders are bunched up near the top, although there is still more than halfway to go before the reach Nome, with a lot of racing to be done.

As I write this, Brent Sass is in the lead and is the first musher out of the checkpoint in Cripple. In second place, just 2.5 hours back, is Aliy Zirkle, followed by Jeff King, defending champ Dallas Seavey, and Nicolas Petit rounding out the top five. Of those, King is in the most precarious position, as he has yet to rest his dogs for the required 24 hours, and will most certainly tumble down the leaderboard when he does.

Most of the rest of the field has now taken that time off, allowing their dogs to rest and get ready for the stretch run to Nome. The leaders are expected to reach that point sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday. But first, they'll face another 500+ miles out on the trail, including the rugged Yukon, and another mandatory 8-hour rest period as well.

It should be interesting to see how the race unfolds over the next few days. At the moment, just about anyone in the top ten has a chance, although Dallas Seavey is the musher who is moving most quickly and efficiently. A lot can happen over the next few days though, and who reaches Nome first will likely be in question right up until the end.

By Monday we should have a better idea of who the final contenders are. Stay tuned for more.

Video: Mushing Explained - Meet the Dogs

As the 2016 Iditarod continues to unfold in Alaska, we get another video in the Mushing Explained series from Alaska Public Media.  Yesterday, we had a video that introduced us to the series, and another on designing the perfect dogsled. Today, we get an introduction to the dogs themselves, as we learn what makes a good sled dog, what mushers look for when selecting their teams, and which breeds are most common in the Iditarod itself. If you've ever wondered about these strong pups, you'll learn everything you need to know in this 2+ minute clip.

Video: Mushing Explained - Everything You Need to Know About Dogsledding

As the 2016 Iditarod continues to unfold in the wilds of Alaska, the state's public media department is producing a series of videos that explain the sport of mushing to those who are new to dogsledding. The videos will be released over the course of the race, with six planned in total. The first two videos have already been posted to YouTube, and you can watch them below.

The first clip is a short and sweet introduction to the new series, which gives viewers an idea of what to expect. It also features some good footage shot prior to the start of the event. Check it out here:

The second video starts to go into more detail on the sport by taking a look at what it takes to design the perfect dogsled. You may think all sleds are created equal, but that is definitely not the case, as you'll see here. Just like race car drivers, the top mushers also go to great pains to ensure there sled is fast and built to last out on the demanding trail. 

Iditarod 2016: A Familiar Name at the Top of the Leaderboard

The 2016 Iditarod sled dog race continues to unfold in Alaska, where a familiar name has now taken the lead, even as other contenders lurk not far back. Trail conditions are said to be good, but not great early on, but just four days into the race, the front runners are already setting a fast pace.

As of this writing, three-time winner and defending champ Dallas Seavey is currently in the lead, and is the only musher out of the Ophir checkpoint. That means he's already logged more than 352 miles (566 km) as he looks to earn his 4th win at the age of 29.

There is still a long way to go yet of course, and there are some very talented mushers lurking not far back. In second place at the moment is Brett Sass, with Nicolas Petit, Ken Anderson, and Iditarod legend Lance Mackey rounding out the top five. Each of those men are into Ophir at this point, but have not departed that CP as of yet.

The race is expected to take about nine days to complete, which would put the winner into Nome sometime early next week, most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. There is a lot of racing to be done before then of course, and most of the racers have yet to take either their mandatory 8-hour or 24-hour rest periods. When and where those breaks take place will play a strategic role in how the race eventually turns out. But the real question now is, can anyone catch Dallas Seavey, or has he gone out to the lead too early and can his dogs maintain the pace. We'll just have to continue to watch to see how it all plays out.

Follow all the action at

Iditarod 2016: The Race to Nome is On!

The 2016 Iditarod got underway this past weekend in Alaska, where 85 mushers and their dogsled teams have now set out on a 1000 mile (1600 km) race that began in Anchorage, and should wrap up sometime next week in Nome.

As with last year's race, the trail conditions are being watched very closely. The classic Iditarod Trail hasn't seen a lot of snow this year, and in order to hold the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday, trains had to deliver snow, which was then deposited on the streets. Out in the wild, there is a bit more snow to help drive the sleds along, but much of the route will be run on frozen rivers. This year, as they do in all even-numbered years, the teams will be taking the more northerly route to help keep the trail as well protected and preserved as possible.

As of now, the lead mushers are into the checkpoint at Finger Lake, which is located 123 miles (197 km) into the competition. As of this writing, Nicolas Petit leads the pack, with Hugh Neff and Rick Casillo in second and third respectively. At this point however, the real race favorites are lurking further back in the pack, biding their time. For instance, Iditarod legend Lance Mackey is currently running in 7th place, with Mitch Seavey in 16th and son Dallas in 22. Perennial runner-up, Aliy Zirkle is lurking in 27th, while Jeff King is all the way down the leaderboard in the 64th position.

Over the next week or so, I'll be watching the race as it unfolds and posting regular updates on the progress. At this stage, most of the racers are still jockeying for position, and many of these early leaders will fade away in the days ahead. Meanwhile, the eventual winner is probably in the middle of the pack at the moment, and will break out in the latter stages of the event.

Stay tuned for more news as the race unfolds. And to get a sense of the experience of the race, checkout the Google Street View website for the Iditarod as well. It has some fun and very interesting images that fans of the event will love.

2016 Iditarod Begins Tomorrow

One of my favorite annual events – the Iditarod – gets underway tomorrow in Anchorage, Alaska. The 1000 mile (1600 km) long dogsledding race is amongst the toughest in the world, with top mushers on hand to compete in one is arguably the most well known and iconic even the sport has to offer.

As usual, the ceremonial start will take place on the streets of Anchorage on Sunday morning, before the mushers and their teams of dogs move to the Campbell Airstrip for the official restart on Sunday. From there, they'll face hundreds of miles of challenging trail that stretches across the Alaskan wilderness all the way to Nome.

Last year, the lack of snow caused the restart to take place in Fairbanks, and the Iditarod trail wasn't in particularly good condition. This year, things are marginally better, with more snow out on the trail. It hasn't been a particularly snowy winter in Alaska, but race officials say that it is ready for the 85 dogsled teams that will set out tomorrow.

Of those competitors, there are obviously a few that stick out as the clear race favorites prior to the start. It would be tough to bet against three-time champ Dallas Seavey of course, but his father Mitch is still a tough competitor too. 2016 could be the year that Aliy Zirkle finally breaks through and gets a win, while Yukon Quest champ Hugh Neff, as well as Brent Sass and Jeff King always seem to be lurking near the front. Or perhaps someone else will break out of the pack and surprise us with a new winner being crowned.

Having just gone dogsledding for the first time while in Canada a few weeks back, I know have a bit more of an understanding of what these men and women go through out on the trail. There is a lot of nuance and skill for the mushers and their dogs, and covering a 1000 miles will take its toll on just about anyone. The Iditarod is as much of an endurance sport as it is a dogsledding event.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting regular updates from the race. As always, it should be interesting to watch events unfold. Stay tuned for more.

Nat Geo Picks the Best Adventure Films of 2015

2015 was a good year for adventure filmmakers. Over the course of the past 12 months we've seen some of the best outdoor and travel focused films ever, and thanks to a proliferation of excellent tools – such as low-cost, high-quality cameras and affordable drones – it looks like this trend of fantastic guerrilla filmmaking won't end anytime soon. With that in mind, National Geographic Adventure took a look back at the very best adventure films from the past year, and revealed their picks for the seven best.

The subjects of these films vary wildly, with some focusing on climbing and mountaineering, while others are all about exploration, skiing, dogsled racing, and even our complex relationships with our canine friends. Some of the short films that earned a spot on Nat Geo's list include A Line Across the Sky, which documented Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold's historic climb of the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia, as well as The Great Alone, which takes us into the Alaskan wilderness with Iditarod champ Lancey Makey, and Unbranded which features an epic journey across the U.S. with wild mustangs.

Of course, one of the most high profile adventure films of the year was Meru. This stunning mountaineering film follows Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk as they climb the Shark's Fin on Mt. Meru in India. This is one of the few movies of this type that actually had a theatrical run, which makes it stand out all the more. Check out the trailer below, and try to catch it on DVD or iTunes if you can.

I'm sure 2016 will bring even more interesting adventure films. I can't wait to see what is in store for us.

Iditarod 2015: Podium Positions Set as Race Continues Across Alaska

I wanted to post one last update on the 2015 Iditarod sled dog race before moving on for another year. While the winner of the race has been crowned, and all of the podium positions are now set, there are still a number of mushers and their teams of dogs still out on the course. Some won't reach the finish line for several days yet, and conditions out on the trail remain very cold. "The Last Great Race" doesn't end when the first person crosses the finish line, and for those still racing it is a test of their skill and endurance. 

Yesterday morning Dallas Seavey claimed his third victory in the last four years, with his only loss coming in 2013 when his father Mitch won instead. The Seavey Iditarod dynasty is in full force this year once again, as yesterday Mitch finished second, reaching Nome nearly an hour and a half ahead of third place finisher Aaron Burmeister. Two ladies battled for fourth and fifth spots over the final couple of days, with Jessie Royer crossing the finish line almost three hours ahead of Aliy Zirkle. Since then, another 12 racers have arrived in Nome, leaving 51 teams to still arrive at the finish. 10 others who started in Anchorage have scratched along the way. 

At the moment, Cindy Abbott is running in last place out of the checkpoint at Kaltag. That leaves her with roughly 346 miles (556 km) yet to go before she is done. If she does manage to make it to Nome, she'll receive the traditional red lantern that goes to the final finisher. This is a badge of honor for having the strength and determination to see the race through to the end, no matter where you finish. 

As for the Seaveys, they're enjoying a much deserved and needed rest after a long race. But no doubt they're already thinking about next year, when they'll probably be battling it out at the top of the leaderboard once again. For Dallas, the sky is the limit in terms of the number of potential wins he could have for his career. The current record is five held by Rick Swenson, but surpassing that total now seems like a real possibility for a man who just turned 28 years old. 

For all of the talk about how this year's Iditarod was going to be easier and faster than year's past due to much of the course taking place on frozen rivers, it turned out to be just as difficult as ever. In order to finish – let alone win – this event, the mushers need to be highly focused, physically fit, and mentally prepared for the challenges of the trail. They also have to be in sync with their dogs, knowing when to let them run, and when it is time to rest. A 1000-mile (1600 km) dog sled race through the Alaskan backcountry is serious business, which is why this truly one of the most spectacular competitive events on the planet.

Congratulations once again to everyone who has already finished in Nome, and good luck to all of the other racers still out on the course.

Dallas Seavey Wins 2015 Iditarod

Dallas Seavey has claimed victory in the 2015 Iditarod sled dog race. The 28-year old defending-champ has become the first musher to reach Nome, arriving early this morning. He finishes the 979 mile (1575 km) race with a total time of 8 days, 18 hours, 13 minutes and 6 seconds. He also crushed the competition, claiming his second straight win in "The Last Great Race" and his third victory overall. 

In the latter stages of the race it became clear that Dallas had the strongest team of dogs out on the course. As his closest competitors slowed down as the neared the later checkpoints along the route, Seavey only seemed to get stronger. Over the last few stages he was breaking trail on fresh snow, but only widened his lead over those who were chasing him. In the ends, he crossed the finish line well ahead of the next closest musher.

As the race continues today, the battle will now be for second place. Dallas' father Mitch is currently holding that position, having left the White Mountain checkpoint just 34 minutes ahead of third place musher Aaron Burmeister. Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle are also out of White Mountain, and are currently holding down the fourth and fifth spots respectively. Unless something radical changes while they race today, that is likely to be their order of finish. 

For Dallas Seavey winning another Idiatrod puts him in rare company. Even his dad has just two wins in the race. Winning three times before the age of 30 puts Dallas in a position to set the bar very high for his career, perhaps even surpassing the record five victories of Rick Swenson. For claiming victory this morning, he was handed a check for $70,000 and the keys to a new pick-up truck as well. Not a bad prize for a little more than a week's work. 

While the winner of the race has been crowned, there is still a lot of racing to be done in this year's event. The next group of mushers will continue to trickle across the finish line throughout the day, but it will take several days for the race to wrap up, with competitors likely arriving well into the weekend. The final person to cross the finish line will receive the traditional red lantern that comes along with holding that position. 

Congratulations to Dallas on another impressive win, and good luck to all of the mushers still out on the course. Get home safely. 

Iditarod 2015: Dallas Seavey Takes Lead Out of Elim

The lead mushers are moving into the homestretch in the 2015 Iditarod, and there is a very familiar name at the top of the leaderboard at the moment. Yesterday, defending champion Dallas Seavey moved out in front and is now the clear favorite to finish first in Nome. But the race isn't over just yet, and the two-time winner will face stiff competition on the final legs to the finish line.

As of this writing, Dallas it the only musher out of the checkpoint at Elim, which is situated 123 miles (198 km) from the finish. He set off just 15 minutes before second place musher Aaron Burmeister arrived at that point. The only other competitors to reach Elim at this point are Dalla's dad – and 2013 champ – Mitch Seavey, and Jessie Royer who is now holding down the fourth position. Three-time runner-up Aliy Zirkle is in fifth place out of Koyuk, but is bearing down on the frontier town as well.

The winner of the race is expected to arrive in Nome sometime early Wednesday. Right now, the anticipation is building that the younger Seavey could claim his third victory in four years, although there is still a lot of racing to be done. Last year, four-time champ Jeff King looked like a lock to claim his fifth title, but just 25 miles (40 km) from the finish he was caught in a blizzard, got lost, and ultimately was forced to scratch. That opened the door for Dallas to nab his second title, but it is a good reminder that the race isn't over until the mushers and their dogs reach the finish.

Weather conditions on the trail remain very cold, but there is more snow in the latter stages of the race than there was at the beginning. That will help the teams run a bit faster, and seems to be favoring Dallas at the moment. He is currently posting the highest speeds of any of the top racers at the moment, which will make catching him all the more difficult.

It now appears that we should know the winner of the race by this time tomorrow. I'll post the news as soon as he or she crosses the finish line.

Iditarod 2015: Burmeister Leads, Seaveys in Pursuit

It was an interesting weekend in Alaska, where the 2015 Iditarod sled dog race continues to play out with the top mushers battling one another at the top of the leaderboard. As they begin to take the turn towards Nome, all of the contenders have now completed their mandatory 8- and 24-hour rest periods, freeing them up to race towards the finish line in what is shaping up to be another interesting battle.

As of this writing, Aaron Burmeister leads the pack as the first musher in and out of the Shaktoolik checkpoint. He holds an hour and a half lead on Dallas Seavey, who has also passed through that village, and is in hot pursuit. At this point of the race, Seavey's team is running much faster than Burmeister, but with 220 miles yet to go, it is still anyone's race.

Mitch Seavey is currently running in third place out of Unalakleet, with Aliy Zirkle just 18 minutes back. Jessie Royer is holding down the fifth spot out on the trail, while four-time champ Jeff King is running in seventh place overall, but has banked up a bit more rest time at the moment.

As the teams have traveled west and north, the temperatures have gotten much colder. In fact, they are bitterly cold at the moment, which is a reminder that this race is still held in Alaska during the winter. Yesterday morning the mercury hovered around -30ºF (-34ºC), although the winds were mercifully light. Hard packed snow on the trails has made conditions better than they were at the start of the event, when the race was forced north to Fairbanks due to a lack of snow on the traditional Iditarod route.

With more than 200 miles to go before the winner reaches Nome, the race is truly still up for grabs. With so many good mushers lurking near the top, it'll come down to whomever has the best strategy for resting and racing heading into the final stages of the race, and who has the fastest dogs. This could be the year that Zirkle ends her frustrations after finishing second to both Mitch and Dallas Seavey each of the past three years. Then again, either one of those two men could bring the title back home again this year. But don't count Burmeister out just yet. The 15-year veteran is racing well, and he could stave off the competition to claim his first title as well.

It is now looking like the first mushers could reach Nome as early as Wednesday. We'll just have to watch the weather and trail conditions to see how everything plays out over the next couple of days. With so many contenders within striking distance of one another, it should certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out.